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Rocky Mountain Ramblers Association

JULY 26th - 27th 1958 - FLOE LAKE

The Ramblers journeyed to Kootenay Park in B.C. for a warm, sunny and what proved to be a very long weekend. Mary Hodgkinson, Nancy Gay Stewart, Ruth Wiesberg, Lucia van der Werve Henk Oliemans, Tom Moffat and Sandy Vair, the trip leader, drove Marble Canyon camp ground on Friday evening and spent the night there. They were joined Saturday morning by Bea Lautenbach, Ted de Waal, Joe Behringer and Wally Drew. The group carried full packs eight miles up the trail to Floe Lake and had that beautiful spot to themselves for the weekend. Lucia fell in a creek on the way up. Tom, a true gentleman, let her wear his pants the rest of the way while he hiked in his swim suit. Floe Lake is surrounded by high peaks, alpine meadows and larches. Ice floes are created from a glacier along one side of the lake. Wally's stone fire place literally back-fired on him. The rock cracked and exploded when heated. Tom, Lucia, Henk and Ruth had hot tamales and rice for dinner. After dinner Sandy and Nancy went fishing and Tom, Ted and Joe glissaded on the glacier. Bea and Wally scorned the tents and slept out under the stars and northern lights.

Sunday the group split into two parties. After Ted, Henk and Bea enjoyed some more glissading, Sandy led the main group back down Floe Creek to the cars. In spite of recent illness, Mary made the whole weekend trip in good form. Tom led Lucia, Joe and Wally down the long way via a high pass and Numa Creek. That ambitious party was unable to find the old trail that was supposed to go that way. After a long day of scree slopes and bushwacking, they finally reached a trail at 8:30 p.m. with the girl nearly exhausted and suffering a leg injury. After a snack supper Joe and Wally hurried ahead down the trail to contact the others who, meanwhile had got Wardens to join them in a search party, while Tom came with Lucia at her pace. Contact was finally made after dark and it was after 1:00 a.m. before everyone was safely back to the cars. No one went home until everyone was out of the woods. That meant getting home between 5 and 7 a.m. Monday. We were tired silly when we stopped to eat in Banff around 3:00 a.m. Joe got out and danced on the main street. Such Incidents and delays very seldom happen In the Ramblers. On an occasion like this when bad luck is encountered, the cooperation of everyone really illustrates the "esprit de corps" of our club.


From "The Pack Rat" revised slightly by Wally Drew from memory, Mar. 1984


The snow is here and people are off again to enjoy another season of winter sport on their skis. It is quite an enjoyable sport to track the snow on your two skis, whether it is the stiff-legged beginner on the lift slopes or the expert skier in deep powder. Unfortunately for a few of us (if we consider all skiers as one family) it also means broken limbs and death, when the snow looses its footings on the mountainside and slides down, gaining momentum, becoming a big mass of snow and air, destroying everything In its path from trees to whole villages In the worst cases. This is the avalanche. I read in the newspaper, that some 20 people will die in avalanches in the Alps this season. I have no estimate about how many it will be here In the Rockies this winter, but there will be a few.

I am not going to try to point out now what you are supposed to look for in recognizing the symptoms of avalanches on mountainsides or slopes. This is quite complex material and much better handled in an avalanche course where instructors will speak about avalanches in some six to eight hours in three evenings. But do not think that because you have been to an avalanche course that you know all about it now. As you step out into the country to do your skiing or snowshoeing you will try to put into practice what you learned about avalanches; that means, trying to recognize potentially dangerous avalanche areas and this is a Job, a hard job, which actually takes years of experience.

When I started skiing here in the Rockies in 1961 I knew that I would no longer have guides to rely on like 1 had on those guided touring trips in the Alps. So, for one week I read all about avalanches. Then I stood three feet back from the book, gave it one more look, and thought that I knew all about avalanches. With a brand new pair of Head skis I set off to Bow Summit. Trying to do some more ambitious things, I decided to ski the upper reaches of Bow Summit. That bowl did not look too good to me, according to the book actually two skiers were killed in this bowl years earlier, so my companion and I decided to climb the left side where some rocks were sticking out half way up. After taking off our climbing skins by those rocks I skied down. I had been on my way for some 20 feet when I heard my friend scream "Wilf".

The next thing I knew I was going head over heels in an avalanche. Then I came to a stop and everything was dark. With one quick move of my arm I saw daylight again. Back on my legs I saw the girl now 20 feet ahead of me, but not hurt. We dug out our equipment; hats, mitts, ski poles, everything had come off. One basket was torn off, one of my brand new metal skis was bent some 35', six inches from my toes.

But we were not hurt. We looked around; 12 Inches of snow, 100 by 1000 feet had come loose. Lots of snow had carried on down another steep slope down into the trees, taking with it more snow. We were lucky to have been *at the starting point of the avalanche, so we escaped most of the snow and were carried down only half way to a shelf.

When we got back to the car I looked back and said, "So much for the darned book, I walked right into the avalanche". Well it was not the book, it was me. My Interpretation was wrong. The book clearly said, "be careful in deep snow early in the season (it was in December) as the snow has not settled yet". It's like a father telling his kid, don't lie in the dirt - you will get dirty. But too many times we still don't know what dirt is till we are in it, spread-eagled. Getting some first-hand knowledge about avalanches in that manner can be very costly, as some 20 people will find out this winter in the Alps. So, work on what they tell you at the avalanche course, and really go to work as you set out to do your skiing and snowshoeing in the mountains. It is worth it.

Wilf Twelker